Ser­bia must con­tain Aus­tria’s Ar­nau­tovic

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Aus­tria for­ward Marko Ar­nau­tovic poses the great­est threat to Ser­bia’s hopes of keep­ing their 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign on track, cap­tain Branislav Ivanovic said yes­ter­day.

The sides clash in Group D at Red Star Bel­grade’s sta­dium on Sun­day and Chelsea de­fender Ivanovic said the out­come could have a telling im­pact on Ser­bia’s bid to reach their first ma­jor tour­na­ment since the 2010 World Cup.

Hav­ing played against Ar­nau­tovic sev­eral times in the Pre­mier League, the 32-yearold right back heaped praise on the Stoke City for­ward, who was born to a Ser­bian fa­ther and an Aus­trian mother.

“I have the ut­most re­spect for Ar­nau­tovic be­cause he has ma­tured in the last year and a half or two,” Ivanovic told a news con­fer­ence. “He has drawn a lot of at­ten­tion here be­cause of his her­itage and in foot­balling terms, he has per­haps im­proved beyond the qual­ity of the club he plays for,” he added.

“We have to close him down and if we do, we have a good chance of keep­ing a clean sheet.” Wales, Ser­bia, Aus­tria and Ire­land each have four points from two games in what is shap­ing up to be a fiercely com­pet­i­tive sec­tion, with only the group win­ners guar­an­teed an au­to­matic berth in the 32-team tour­na­ment in Rus­sia.

Ge­or­gia and Moldova are yet to earn a point. Ivanovic headed Ser­bia’s sec­ond goal in a 3-0 win at Moldova on Thurs­day while the Aus­tri­ans twice came from be­hind to sal­vage a 2-2 home draw against Wales thanks to an Ar­nau­tovic dou­ble.

The tow­er­ing 27-year old said he would re­frain from cel­e­brat­ing if he scored against Ser­bia and de­fender Alek­san­dar Dragovic, born to Ser­bian par­ents in Vi­enna, echoed his view.

“It would be un­fair to the fans,” Ar­nau­tovic told re­porters. “It will not be an easy night for me be­cause there will be a lot of emo­tions, but I will play my heart out.” Dragovic added: “We are play­ing against my par­ents’ coun­try and most of my fam­ily will sup­port Ser­bia, but I think my grand-par­ents will cheer for me.”

Ivanovic said his team needed to keep up their mo­men­tum. “The match against Aus­tria is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for both teams as it could de­ter­mine the en­tire qual­i­fi­ca­tion process,” he said. “In the past few cam­paigns, we were pretty much out of con­tention after the open­ing two or three games whereas the sit­u­a­tion is en­tirely dif­fer­ent now.” —Reuters

VI­ENNA: Aus­tria’s Marko Ar­nau­tovic and Wales’s Joe Allen, from left, chal­lenge for the ball dur­ing their World Cup Group D qual­i­fy­ing soccer match at the Ernst Hap­pel Sta­dium in Vi­enna, Aus­tria. —AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.